Tag Archives: jose reyes

Hard Work Pays Off, Just Ask Jeremy Hazelbaker

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

It is pretty common to hear a feel-good story about a professional athlete, whether it is about them coming from a low-income family or overcoming a devastating injury. But Jeremy Hazelbaker’s story is a unique one, it is about perseverance, dedication, and dealing with adversity.

                                       Image via http://www.ksdk.com

Currently, baseball analysts are spending their time discussing Trevor Story’s historic start, but one player that has maybe been more impressive than Story is the rookie outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Jeremy Hazelbaker. Similar to Story, Hazelbaker was only given a shot in the big league this year because of something that happened to another player. For Story, he was given the opportunity because Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes is on paid leave from the MLB stemming from a domestic violence case. In Jeremy’s case, he got his shot because of an injury that Cardinals shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered which opened up a spot for him on the 40-man roster. With that said, let it be known that Hazelbaker certainly earned his spot and it was not only because of the injury. In Spring Training, the prospect showed the team that he was capable of playing all three outfield spots, led the club with two homers, and was one of the top base stealers in the entire league.

This is one of those feel-good stories because not only did the Ball State alum earn a spot on the team on the last day of Spring Training, but also because he had been in the minors for the past seven seasons before finally breaking through this year. Originally a fourth round pick of the Boston Red Sox, the outfielder’s path to the majors included playing in 751 minor-league games where he had 3,104 plate appearances. At this time last year Hazelbaker was sitting at home wondering if he would ever get another chance in professional baseball after he was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The only team to reach out to him after his release was the Cardinals, who signed Hazelbaker to a minor-league contract. He then went from AA to AAA in 2015 sporting an average above .300 at both stops. Hazelbaker was rewarded for his excellent play with a contract that paid him $18,000 a month, more than he had ever been paid before, and an invitation to Big-League camp. He made the most of his chance and as described before, eventually made the Major League club out of Spring Training.

As of Monday, the 28 year-old is batting .394 with three home runs, seven runs batted in, and an OPS of 1.239 through the first two weeks of the 2016 season. Those numbers are eye-popping for any player, let alone one viewed as a career minor-leaguer. The rookie has also earned praise from his teammates through his play. In an article from baseballamerica.com titled After Long Stay In Minors, Hazelbaker Arrives, writer Derrick Goold includes a quote from Randal Grichuk one of Hazelbaker’s fellow outfielders. Grichuk is quoted as calling Jeremy “the greatest hitter ever.” This is definitely a stretch but it is obvious that Hazelbaker has not only earned respect from the coaching staff but also his teammates.

The coverage of the (kind of) young outfielder hasn’t been the same as that of Trevor Story, but I venture to think this player maybe prefers it that way. As he has joined the MLB’s top hitters atop the leader boards, more and more stories are being written about him by the day. Hazelbaker’s story is very appealing to baseball writers because they know that we as fans crave these kind of feel-good tales about players overcoming obstacles to ultimately succeed at the highest level. Similar to myself, Jeremy hails from a very small town. He grew up in Selma, Indiana which has a total population of 858. There is no doubt that this man, who is one of the hottest topics of conversation in baseball, is the talk of the town and is serving as not only an inspiration to all the kids from back home but also to anyone who is at a cross-roads whether in sports or life in general.

It is pretty obvious that the player will eventually slow down in terms of his production but he has certainly impacted many from his dedication and humbleness. In an article from USA Today titled Jeremy Hazelbaker’s big league dream comes true with Cardinals, author Bob Nightengale includes a quote from the player himself where he demonstrates this humbleness. Jeremy is quoted as saying, “this is stuff you think about, even dream about…But at the same time, it’s not something you can prepare for. I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity.” The stories that members of the media have wrote about the player have all been positive ones that emphasize the player’s determination and credit him for finally reaching the big leagues because of his incredible work ethic. It is my hope that Hazelbaker stays consistent throughout the 162-game season and I am confident he will, solely because of the motivation he has gained from his past failures.

 

 

Trevor Story is Writing His Own Story

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Major League Baseball kicked off the 2016 season on April 3rd and the first week has been an entertaining one to say the least. There were a couple interesting storylines going into the season such as how Zack Greinke would do in his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks, if the Chicago Cubs would be able to meet expectations, and whether the San Francisco Giants would be able to win the World Series again with this being an even year. But Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story has stolen the spotlight during week 1.

                                         Image via http://www.m.mlb.com

2 off-seasons the Rockies traded their superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays for SS Jose Reyes among others. Fans were shocked that the team decided to ship their franchise player to Toronto but most understood that they are in the midst of rebuilding for the future. After arriving in Colorado, Reyes finished the 2015 season productively but this past off-season the veteran was brought up on domestic violence charges in Hawaii. Currently the MLB has placed Reyes on paid leave and a timetable for his return is uncertain, but the question now is will he even have a starting spot when he returns? The person that is responsible for creating this question is none other than rookie shortstop Trevor Story.

Story earned a starting spot on the Rockies after he posted impressive numbers this Spring Training. Even after his stellar performance in the spring, no one predicted for him to get off to this kind of start, not the fans, the media, or any baseball analyst.

In the Colorado Rockies first game of 2016 they faced the Arizona Diamondbacks led by their newly acquired ace, Zack Greinke. In 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Greinke posted the ninth best ERA in baseball history with a 1.66, so expectations were high in his first start of 2016. But don’t bother telling Trevor Story he should be intimidated by Greinke. Story became the first player in MLB history to hit two home runs in a big league début on opening day, both coming off  Greinke. With this breakout performance, Story had the Colorado fan base going wild. There was even a picture that circulated around social media of a fan wearing a Tulowitzki jersey that had Story’s name taped over Tulo’s.

                                                                                                    Image via http://www.denverpost.com

Following his opening day performance, expectations were through the roof for the former 1st round draft pick. So as everyone predicted of course, he would hit another home run in his second career game off of talented pitcher Shelby Miller. With this, Story became the third player in baseball history to hit three home runs in the first two games of his career. But he wasn’t done yet, in his fourth career Major League game, Trevor Story homered twice against the San Diego Padres becoming the first rookie in baseball history to begin a career with two multi-homer games in his first four games. Another notable record that Trevor is a part of is becoming the fifth player to homer in their team’s first four games of the season.

As of now, the Rockies shortstop is batting .333 with 7 home runs in 6 games…Wow. The numbers he has put up cannot be described as anything less than astounding. And he’s on pace to get video game like stats.

You should give credit where credit is due, it is not easy to follow in a superstar’s footsteps, just ask New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius when he took over after Derek Jeter retired. The question that was asked after his first game and is still asked now is if Trevor Story is going to be able to keep up his historic run? An article titled Rockies’ Trevor Story Homers in Record 4th Straight Game from cbc.ca.com, includes quotes from Story and teammate Carlos Gonzalez, Story says, “I’ve said it before, I’m not trying to hit home runs, sometimes it kind of happens,” and later Gonzalez adds, “He’s fearless. He’s playing like a Hall of Famer right now.” With his quote, Story appears humble while downplaying his recent success and his teammate known as CarGo praises the young player like most of his other teammates are probably doing.

The media coverage around the rookie phenomenon has been extensive and rightfully so, this kid has become the talk of not only Rockies fans and media but media and fans league-wide. At this point, Story is probably accustomed to being swarmed by mobs full of baseball writers, journalists, and reporters following games. But there have already been some wild comparisons between the former LSU Tiger and some of the MLB’s all-time greats. In an article from The Score com titled How Does Story’s Debut Rank Against MLB’s Greatest? Author George Halim stacks Trevor Story up against Babe Ruth among others. First he writes about Story, “In his first four major-league games, the Rockies rookie is the best hitter in the majors, and the greatest of all time.” Well that is quite the statement if I do say so myself, later Halim talks about Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, “At one point, he was the home run king, and his career is among the greatest ever. But Ruth’s first four major-league games? Not so historic.” So as you can see with this specific example it is ridiculous to even put Trevor Story in the same sentence as Babe Ruth. Story has gotten off to a historic start but there is still no need to compare him to any Hall of Famers because he has still only played seven career games at the Major League level.

There is no telling how long this player will stay hot or continue to mash home runs for his team but even if he doesn’t hit another homer all year he has still broken multiple records and caused a league-wide media frenzy during this first week of baseball. Personally I am rooting for Story to continue his excellent play because it makes baseball so much fun to watch. Only time will tell what player he will eventually become but he has certainly made a name for himself quickly. I also recommend you to pick him up in your fantasy league if you haven’t already, you can bet I have.